Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Sunnah of Abraham (as)

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّ حِيْمِ

Reliance on Allah is something that is easier said that done. We always hear people quoting the Hadith "trust in Allah but tie your camel”. What they usually mean when they say this is to put your trust in Allah but first see if there’s anything that you can do to help yourself. The Sufis’ say that whoever puts their trust in Allah, has tied his camel.

In order to understand the importance of tawakkul (total reliance on Allah ) we must reference the source of the beginning of Islam. The real beginning of Islam started with Prophet Abraham (as). Yes all the previous Messengers and their followers were believers but Prophet Abraham (as) resurrected the focus and direction towards the Kaba. He prayed for the monotheistic theology to spread through his son Ishmael.

Perhaps this is one reason why Allah says to us about Prophet Abraham the following:

Abraham was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to Allah……So We have taught the inspired message: Follow the ways of Abraham; the true in Faith. (16:120-123)

What was the lesson that Abraham (as) left for us? He knew and demonstrated how to rely only on Allah . Firstly, when he was a little boy and he destroyed the idols of his people they gave him an ultimatum; either repent and worship their ‘gods’ or be killed. This young boy opted to be killed by being thrown into the fire they kindled for that purpose.

If you put your faith in Allah He will take care of your affairs. During his life Prophet Abraham (as) acquired a lot of wealth. He had thousands of livestock and acres upon acres of land. So much so that even today the Jews are still trying to reclaim the land they believe he was given. In spite of being the possessor of so much wealth, he gave his wife, Hagar some water and a little food and left her and his newborn son, whom he loved so much, in the wilderness where there was not even a blade of grass growing.

After he prayed for a son for so long, in his old age he finally got Ishmael (as). So much faith and trust he had in His Lord that he knew Allah would take care of them even in this barren land. And while he was departing he prayed as follows:

"O Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O Our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks”

He recognized what he was doing. He was sure that Allah was going to answer his supplication; and just as how Allah fed Moses and his people when they crossed the sea, and how he fed Mary and her son Jesus, He (Allah) would take care of all the needs of Hagar and her son Ishmael.

Allah accepted the supplication of Abraham (as) and the barren valley in which they were put soon became a place filled with the best of waters on the earth, and the hub for worship, etc. He truly demonstrated trust and faith in his Lord.

Abraham demonstrated that when one puts trust and reliance on Allah, He (Allah) takes care of that person's affairs.

Allah says in Surah Ath Thalaaq;

“and He (Allah) provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if any one puts His trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for Him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion”. (65:3)

Allah will never let you down. That is guaranteed. We cannot say how or when we can solve our problems and difficulties. Allah’s knowledge is far greater than ours and He knows what is best for us. Allah preserved the life of Abraham (as) for us to learn and put into practice. We are even commanded to adhere to Abraham’s (as) sunnah; and one of his sunnah was to display wholeheartedly complete faith and trust His Lord.

“Then We revealed to you, (O Muhammad), to follow the way of Abraham,” (16:123)

If Allah doesn’t want you to ‘tie your camel’ you will never be able to. Understand everything comes from Him. He knows why He allows things to happen and withholds things from taking place. What we have to do is to build up our faith so that we will have total reliance in our Lord, just as Prophet Abraham (as) did.

May Allah make us from amongst those who have true tawakkul in Him and may He take care of our affairs in all worlds.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Displaying patience when learning

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّ حِيْمِ

As believers it is important of us to be aware of the etiquette and attitude that should be displayed in the process of learning. We must acquire a special discipline in this process. One of the etiquettes is demonstrating a lot of patience before speaking, asking questions or responding to others. Don’t just open your mouth. Be mindful and cautious.

Asking questions is not wrong when one sincerely wants to learn. Allah encourages it. He says in Surah Anbiyaa; “ask of those who possess the Message”. But be mindful when asking questions especially to a learned person such as one's Spiritual Teacher because it is possible that at that time you won’t have the capacity to understand. You may not be capable of understanding the real spiritual meaning. For example a lot of people ask the question ‘why stand for Tazeem?’ At this point in time they can’t understand the merit behind it, but Insha Allah through time will come wisdom.

A potent example of this given in the Qur’an is the encounter between Prophet Moses (as) and Hazrat Khdir. Moses (as) wanted to know more about the truth, more than about creation. Theologically Moses (as) was a learned person, but he wanted to acquire that knowledge that is beyond reason and logic. So he set out on a spiritual journey to acquire this knowledge.

Allah guided him to Khdir. Who was Khdir? He is a personality Allah mentioned in the Qur’an. Some say he was a Prophet of Allah , some say he was an angel, some say he was a wise servant of Allah who still functions today. We can’t say because Allah didn’t give any details about this personality. All that is recorded is “so they found one of Our servants whom We had mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our Own.

Throughout their journey Moses (as) demonstrated his limited understanding by questioning Khdir on three separate occasions. At that point in time he couldn’t see the purpose of Khdir’s actions. And Khdir summed it up beautifully by asking Moses (as) the question prior to their journey “How can thou have patience about things which thy understanding is not complete?

We see from this encounter the wisdom in bearing patience, especially when in the company of the learned. Allah reinforces this in Surah Maa-idah;

“O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble”. (5:101)

Continuously asking questions may make things a bit harder for you to understand, as was the case with the Jews. When they were commanded to slaughter a cow they kept asking Moses (as) question after question and every time they got an answer the task became a little more difficult for them; until they were made to pay gold that equated the weight of a the cow. This story is recorded in Surah Baqarah, verses 67-73.

Understand something very important; i.e. we do not know Allah’s plan. Our knowledge and understanding is limited. Don’t question Allah . Don’t say why me! when you are faced with trials and tests. Don’t question Allah’s work. We don’t know what He has planned for us. What we do know is that He loves us and He will take care of us.

Unfortunately, we don’t see believers behaving in this manner. Sometimes we try to take matters into our own hands. This lesson is really important especially, when it comes to Spirituality. If you are told to do something especially by a Sheikh you don’t question it. There is wisdom and reason for it.

Those who are trying to get closer to Allah are careful and cautious when it comes to opening their mouths. They remain silent and look on with the outlook that Allah will take care of the affairs of His servants.

Satan was so blessed that he was favoured with entry into paradise amongst the company of Angels, but he questioned Allah and look how far he fell. The angels displayed their reservations when Allah announced to them that He was going to create man. Thereafter when they were questioned they responded;

“Glory to Thee, of knowledge we have none, save what Thou hast taught us: in truth it is Thou Who Art Perfect In Knowledge and Wisdom”. (2:32)

What Allah wants to happen will happen. He knows what is best for us. Our understanding is limited and short-sighted. Put your faith and trust in Allah and He will take care of your affairs.

We beg Allah to make us from amongst those who will never question His Decisions and accept whatever He sends our way. May He make the trials and tests easy and bearable and may He inculcate in us the ability to demonstrate patience when seeking knowledge and spiritual advancement.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Benefits of Fasting

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّ حِيْمِ

When one looks back in history, it will be seen that the institution of Fasting was a prescription given to all those who were to receive special religious experiences.

Moses was ordered to fast for forty days and forty nights before he was given the Torah. Jesus, in spite of being special from birth, kept fast on the mountain for forty days, before he was able to overpower Satan. And the previous messengers, all kept fast upon the command of the Lord. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Allah says to Muslims in the Holy Qur’an, that fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you.

Allah made fasting easy for Muslims. They do not have to fast for forty days and nights, nor do they have to go on the hilltops to do so. They keep the fast from dawn to dusk in the lunar month of Ramadan, in their homes and may get the same type of religious experience during the Night of Power. Allah says that: He desires ease for us and He does not desire to put us into any type of difficulties. (Qur’an, 2:185)

But why did Allah make fasting in the month of Ramadan a principle of faith for the Muslims?

Fasting in this month benefits the person in two ways, viz. it enables him to ascend closer to his Lord; and it makes him a better unit in society.

During the month of Ramadan the Muslim engages himself in abstinence during the day from dawn to dusk, engages in extra acts of worship, spends more time reading the Holy Qur’an, (the unadulterated Word of Allah); becomes more generous to the poor and the needy; and stays God conscious all the time. As a result he feels that he is living in the presence of the Divine. Allah out of His mercies sends the Angels to visit the believers during the “night of Power” an experience which a lot of people cherish.

Fasting enables a person to develop a better relationship with others in the society, as, one is prohibited from ill-speaking, responding negatively, becoming irritable, or doing anything that will harm others. And when emotionally challenged he is required to say: I am fasting.

A Muslim knows that back-biting, etc will render his fast null and void.
It is because fasting brings out the moral and spiritual good in a person that Allah says: If you fast it is better for you. Because Muslims feel better about themselves regarding their moral, spiritual and social development at the end of Ramadan, Eid becomes a day of celebration and thankfulness to the Lord for His Favours they received during the Blessed month.

A Muslim is supposed to use the experience of Ramadan as a milestone in his moral and spiritual growth. He has to always keep in mind what Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said: Faith increases or decreases. As a result, in order to preserve the blessings of Ramadan, he needs to take note that he should not cover Truth with falsehood, as that will spoil his relation with his Maker
Ramadan is therefore designed to strengthen the bond of relation between a person and his Lord on one hand, and between a person and his friends, relatives and neighbours on the other.

May Allah bless all those who kept the fast with good in this world and in the Next.